A California tech company executive was arrested and charged in the 1992 murder of his former roommate’s girlfriend, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office said Monday.
John Kevin Woodward, a 58-year-old president and CEO of Readytech, was charged with the murder of Laurie Houts, a 25-year-old computer engineer who was found strangled in her car in Mountain View, according to a news release.
Woodward is in custody now and was arrested Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after arriving from Amsterdam. He currently resides in the Netherlands. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Houts was discovered dead in her vehicle near a garbage dump site back in 1992, according to the Mountain View Police Department. Her cause of death was strangulation and the rope used to kill her was originally not traced to Woodward, although his fingerprints were found outside her vehicle. Updates in DNA technology over the last 30 years allowed police to connect Woodward to the rope used in the crime.
Items from the case were re-examined in 2020 from the 1992 investigation and then re-submitted to the Santa Clara County Crime Lab for analysis. With the advancements, DNA samples collected from evidence at the scene came back matching Woodward’s DNA. Additionally, 80 latent fingerprints collected at the time of Houts’ death were re-examined by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Identification Unit, which matched Woodward.
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Woodward was roommates with Houts’ boyfriend and was arrested in 1992 with a connection to the homicide. He was tried twice for the crime and never convicted after two hung juries, CBS San Francisco reports. According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, Woodward was jealous of Houts and had developed romantic feelings for his roommate. He also had no alibi for the night of Houts’ murder. The lack of practical evidence was detrimental in the case, however.
“This case is the culmination of incredible determination by our detectives over the decades and with phenomenal teamwork with our agency partners here in Santa Clara County and in New York,” Mountain View Police Chief Chris Hsiung said in a statement. “I am honored that our agency finally gets to give hope to Laurie’s family that they can see a successful prosecution carried out. It bears repeating – we do not give up on justice for victims, no matter what.”
The family released the following statement in a news release: “Laurie Anne Houts was a beloved family member and friend to many. Although she was only 5′ tall, she had a huge heart and her humor and spunk were endearing to all. The way Laurie lived and treated people was a stunning example of what was right in the world. She was a gem to so many, but her bright life was taken from us at the age of 25. We are hopeful that justice can finally be served for Laurie and incredibly appreciative of the law enforcement agencies who have never given up on her.”
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